Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Derek Polka


Derek Polka goes to Peru with Team Peru program.

September 14, 2012

Program: Public Administration (MPA)

Specialization: Food Security and Global Governance

Undergrad: UC Santa Barbara (Sociology)

Fast Fact: Derek grew up on a dairy and agricultural farm in Moss Landing, a town in north Monterey County with a population of 204 people. 

“The ability to provide food and an adequate wage for living is crucial if we wish to bring countries out of the trap of poverty.”

Derek Polka was born in Mexico but grew up on a farm in Moss Landing, CA.  As a child, Derek frequently visited his birth country.  He says, “I became increasingly aware of the social inequalities that were persistent in Mexico, culminated by the realization that social inequalities were present everywhere, even in the United States.” 

When Derek attended UC Santa Barbara for his undergraduate degree, he became fascinated by social systems, particularly the global food system.

“I wanted to become proficient in public policy and organizational management approaches so as to have some impact on the way in which food is produced and consumed around the world.”

Derek chose to pursue his master’s in public administration at the Monterey Institute because of its international focus and emphasis on foreign language skills.

He says, “The other big draw of MIIS was the focus on immersive learning through programs like Development Project Management Institute (DPMI), International Professional Service Semester (IPSS), Frontier Market Scouts, Team El Salvador, and Team Peru, which offer international opportunities to work with organizations and communities towards sustainable development.”

Derek was able to practice what he learned in the classroom when he traveled to Peru to do development work.

Team Peru was a great experience because I was able to take the skills I had learned through the MPA program and apply them to an organization. Courses like Organizational Sustainability for Social Change Organizations (SCOs), Program Evaluation for SCOs, and Managing Public Organizations provided me with the skills I needed, including strategic planning, financial management and funding, and evaluation design. I can't imagine going into the field without these skills, and I am super grateful to have been able to put those skills into actual practice. Many times in academia things become too abstract. Team Peru was a great way to stay grounded to the reality of international development.”


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